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Incumbent sheriff balks at TV debate

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales

No televised debate will be held between the two candidates for Bernalillo County sheriff, because the incumbent turned down the invitation to debate his challenger.

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales declined to appear this Sunday for an hourlong debate hosted by KOAT-TV and the Albuquerque Journal against Republican candidate Lou Golson, who had accepted the invitation, said Greg Shepperd, KOAT news director.

Without both candidates agreeing to appear, Shepperd said, the station canceled the event.

Lou Golson

Gonzales, a Democrat, in an interview said it was “a campaign strategy” to turn down the debate, but declined to explain further.

“I don’t discuss my campaign strategy with media or anybody outside of my inner circle,” he said.

Golson, a retired Albuquerque police officer, said Tuesday that he had been looking forward to the debate. He had agreed to it several months ago and found out last week the event was canceled.

“The people need to have their questions answered. They are the ones who put us into office,” Golson said. “They deserve our time.”

Gonzales appeared at a forum with Golson several weeks ago.

“I believe my opponent – I’ve been out to forums with him – whatever I say he tries to make his own,” Gonzales said. “I don’t believe he has a platform, and I don’t see the benefit.”

Golson said his primary goals for the Sheriff’s Office have been posted on his website since he announced his run. Those are putting lapel cameras on deputies and building stronger relationships among city, county, state and federal agencies to target people with long criminal histories.

“We have our differences, but to (Gonzales’) credit, we have a lot of the same ideas,” Golson said. “It’s just that he’s had 3½ years to put them together, and he hasn’t.”

Gonzales said he’s confident voters know where he stands on issues and are satisfied with how he has run the sheriff’s agency.

“The public knows exactly where I stand. I’ve been here 3½ years, and they come up to me every day in the public and support me,” he said. “I have no doubts that I’ll be re-elected. I feel very confident we’re doing an outstanding job.”

Meanwhile, KOAT also canceled its 2nd Congressional District debate, also hosted by the station and the Journal, after Republican candidate Yvette Herrell failed to accept its invitation. Shepperd said the station made multiple calls to her campaign, which said it would check her schedule. But when Herrell’s campaign did not get back to KOAT, the station decided to cancel.

Democrat Xochitl Torres Small had accepted the tentatively scheduled Oct. 19 debate.

The district covers southern and eastern New Mexico and is currently represented by Republican Steve Pearce, who opted to run for governor rather than seek another term in Congress.